Harder Than The Race Itself

Published on October 17th, 2016

The eighth Vendée Globe, which begins November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Racing IMOCA 60s, first time entrant Conrad Colman is among the 29 skippers that plan to be on the start line…


Conrad Colman

It has been the relentless pressure and workload which has pushed Conrad Colman harder than he remembers being pressed in his life before. The battle to find enough funding to get to the start has latterly run in tandem long, hard hours spent getting his IMOCA 60 100% Natural Energy – formerly Maisoneuve – refitted and ready to take on the world.

“It has been full on. I have not had a day off really since I started. It has been so much hard work eighteen hours a day, day after day,” smiles Colman, “The boat is pretty much ready. We tried out the last of the new sails the other day. That said it is fair to say that pretty much every minute of every day until the start is allocated.”

To date Colman has been unable to find a major sponsor. He will start nonetheless and make it all work, he says, but he says he is very much staking his foreseeable financial future.

“I have had some close calls with sponsors and we are still trying. But I have pretty much ‘bet the farm’ to get here. I am still hanging out for a saviour. On the one hand it all adds to the pressure and stress, but on the other it is frustrating because I have such a strong story to tell, myself and the boat and the natural energy programme.

“It is a big risk for me but there is so much for a title sponsor to gain being associated with this great adventure. There is at least €100,000 of value there and it’s a shame there is no one able to take that benefit. My programme is unique even compared with the other skippers.”

Colman is used to long hours and hard work and race programmes which run to the wire pre-start. In 2008-9 he helped Steve White make the start line of the Vendée Globe. He sailed as co-skipper to Nandor Fa on Spirit of Hungary in the last Barcelona World Race. A refit which ran late on Fa’s IMOCA meant the duo had to burn the midnight oil to be ready to start.

“I am in far better shape than then. Technically, I feel totally confident in the boat and in my capacity to do this race well. I know what’s what and feel great to know I’ll be in the race, on the start line.

“I am a 32 years old endurance athlete who has competed at a very high level in mountain biking, in triathlons and running and more recently long distance swimming. Let’s just say that these last months have really tapped into my mental and physical reserves built up by these sports.

“The Vendée Globe is what I have always dreamed of doing. They say that the battle to be on the start line can be harder than the race itself, but even at that I am fully aware that thereafter there just because you make it on to the start line there is no right to get to the other line, the finish. That is a privilege to be earned.”

By necessity and by choice Colman has been hands on in all of his boat preparations.

“The boat is well sorted now. I have just replaced the solar panels and validated the electric motor set up. I have every confidence in the boat. Because I have done so much I know every nut and bolt, every item, and have had endless conversations about what and why and the way we have done things. And that confidence is invaluable.”

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The eighth Vendée Globe, which begins November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations will set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.

For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils, which allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.


Source: Vendee Globe

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